After plenty of rumor and speculation, Apple‘s CarKey feature is now official.

During its virtual Worldwide Developer Conference last night, Apple officially announced the feature, which will let users unlock and start their car using their iPhone.

CarKey hasn’t exactly been the best kept secret. It seems everything that circulated in the rumors earlier this year, since the feature was spotted in iOS source code, are true.

If you haven’t been following this specific iOS update, let me catch you up.

[Read: The key differences between Tesla’s driving aids: Autopilot and Full Self-Driving]

CarKey uses the iPhone Wallet app and the supporting carmaker’s app to pair with compatible motor vehicles. The pairing process is much like other NFC or Bluetooth device, and once complete, you will be able to open your car by holding your phone near the vehicle’s external NFC contact.

carkey, apple, tesla, app
Credit: Tesla
You can already open your Tesla using your phone. But Apple’s CarKey bakes the function into iOS bringing additional security and features, such as sharing car keys over iMessage.

Apple says that you can also use Face ID or Touch ID to add an extra layer of security. In this instance, the car will unlock once your identity is confirmed. This could be a good layer of protection to stop random people stealing your phone and opening your car.

Another cool feature is that iPhone users will be able to share their CarKeys over iMessage. This could be a great feature for families that share a car — it sure beats hiding the keys in a wheel arch.

The rumor that BMW cars would be the first to get the function is also true. BMW‘s upcoming 5 series, out next month, will be the first CarKey enabled vehicle.

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Credit: Wikimedia – CC
The current BMW M5 is powered by 4.9L V8 putting out around 600 bhp. The car is due a facelift next year, but after that its next model range could include an all-electric variant. The next BMW 5 Series is coming out next month.

According to The Verge, Apple is working on an industry-wide standard to use is U1 ultra-wideband chip, so the CarKey feature won’t have to rely just on NFC standards.

It’s also worth knowing that Apple has prepared for the worst, too. If your phone runs out of battery, it says CarKey will continue to work for five hours after your phone is out of juice.

While this sounds like a great feature, it’ll take a while before it becomes mass -market, assuming that it does. Apple is also going to enable CarKey on iOS 13 devices with an update.

Digital car keys are nothing new. Tesla’s cars can already be opened using the car’s associated app. The new Polestar P2 also opens without having to actually touch the car.

The difference with CarKey is that the functionality is baked into iOS and not just a surface function that’s part of the vehicle maker’s app.

While CarKey is targeted at individual consumers, this tech could also be great for car sharing schemes and company car fleets too. Imagine just being iMessaged your car key rather than having to go collect it in person.

If you ask me, this is going to a really useful feature. Carmakers are all offering, or starting to offer, apps that let owners control functions of their cars. Having a single place on your phone to store the most essential feature of those apps, the CarKey, will prevent the digital equivalent of rifling through your pocket wondering where the heck you left your keys.

HT – 9to5 Mac

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